Regardless of personal belief regarding the legality of medical marijuana, studies proving its effectiveness for chronic pain are interesting. Currently, 29 states and DC have adopted acceptance of Medical Marijuana into state law. This allows patients with pain issues to get approval from a licensed physician to obtain and consume marijuana for treatment.
Medical Marijuana has been approved for use in certain states if the patient has a qualifying condition. The most recent excitement has been in the area of treatment of seizures. The conditions recognized by the government that show potential for marijuana treatment include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Crohn’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Wasting Syndrome
Depending on the patient’s state of residence, there may be other conditions that qualify as well. This can happen if the patient meets certain pain criteria. This includes documentation that other methods of pain treatment have been ineffective, and if the physician feels marijuana use will help rid pain or symptoms.
Marijuana has shown to be effective in many ways, This includes decreasing pain, increasing appetite, and allowing patients to relax. For chronic pain sufferers, relaxing is something they likely don’t experience often. It can also assist in sleeping soundly. In turn, this can aide in a rise in energy levels throughout the day. It promotes good circulation, lowered blood pressure, and helps relieve inflammation affecting muscle, tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. Additionally, studies have also shown its efficacy in lowering anxiety, which can help to improve overall emotional health.
|Large Amount of Marijuana “buds” and accessories|
Testing and Controversy
Despite the benefits, the effects of marijuana are what seems to be most controversial. Many Americans fear its legalization because of the potential side-effects. While marijuana does pose medical risks, the side-effects of the drug aren’t any worse than those of other prescription and over the counter drugs.
Many drugs that have been deemed extremely safe, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, have more serious side-effects than what has been found in marijuana. Side-effects of acetaminophen and ibuprofen can include liver or kidney damage. This can potentially lead to serious ulcers of the digestive tract, heart and respiratory conditions, or even death.
In contrast, Marijuana can potentially cause respiratory infections, bronchitis, impair one’s ability to drive, and cause short-term impairment of memory and reasoning. So far, there have been no cases of marijuana overdose or death, regardless of what erroneous claims have circled the internet. It has been warned it could pose health risks if someone is already suffering from cardiovascular conditions, as it could potentially make the risk of death higher. However, marijuana is not the cause of these deaths.
In lab tests, the amount of marijuana that it would take to make a person overdose is 20,000 to 40,000 times more than is contained in one marijuana cigarette. This statistic is powerful, as there are more than 1,000 deaths in the USA every year due to aspirin, a common over the counter medication.
A Gateway Drug?
Time and time again, marijuana has been found to be safer than alcohol. The effects of alcohol can be devastating to the human body when consumed in high volume or too often. Additionally, alcohol impairment is a leading cause of car crashes. Despite this information, alcohol beat prohibition and rakes in big bucks for producers and retailers. Its legalization, while somewhat harmful to society, has benefited the economy.
On the other hand, marijuana still has a social stigma that makes people uneasy. Consider the many years of ad campaigns that targeted teenage use and accused marijuana of being a “gateway drug”. Studies have shown that marijuana does not always lead to other drugs. The studies also show that marijuana usually comes first because it is simply more easily available. There is no evidence that its use is the cause of experimenting with other substances.
As of now, federal regulations on marijuana prevent it from being fully legal. Classified as a Schedule 1 drug, the federal government holds the right to prosecute any individual that possesses, uses, grows, or distributes marijuana, regardless of state laws. The new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions has made this very clear. The government considers marijuana to have no feasible medical use. As a result, marijuana is less legal than many forms of heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
The federal drug scheduling system works like this:
Examples of Drugs
|Schedule IV||OTC and some prescriptionsDo not pose a risk of addiction||Ibuprofen
|Schedule III||Prescription medicationsSmall potential for dependence||Certain steroids
|Schedule II||Prescription or physician administered medicationsHeavily controlledHigh risk of addictionSometimes monitored by FDA and pharmacies||Opiates like Oxycodone Stimulants like Adderall|
|Schedule I||Have no medical use. Carry significant risks for addiction. Not legally acceptable in any way||Heroin
While marijuana is not legal in any form, there are synthetic cannabinoids in pill form that are prescribed for certain ailments. These compounds fit into schedule 2. Notably, the downside of these synthetic marijuana pills though is that they only mimic one chemical of the plant. They don’t have the benefit of some of the other helpful components that exist in it’s cultivated form. In turn, it less effective than the real thing.
A Growing Debate
A recent Gallup poll found support for legal marijuana use has grown to 60% of Americans. In turn, more and more states are voting to allow marijuana use medically. Interestingly, 8 states have even allowed pot recreationally. It is for sale in state regulated storefronts in the same manner as alcohol. Supporters of these laws like the idea of increased tax revenue, more available jobs, and reduced illegal, unregulated sales.
There are still concerns about underage consumption. However, even though there is always the possibility of pot falling into the hands of underage recipients, it would still be harder to find and more expensive than what they can get in their own family medicine cabinets.
There have also been petitions filed to the federal government that regulates drug classification, urging them to move marijuana out of schedule 1. However, the feds have not yet taken these petitions seriously. The debate continues to rage. With increasing public approval clashing with decreasing federal approval, the fate of marijuana remains unclear.
Written By: Jenna McClure
Photo Credits: Samson Daniels and LancerenoK at Flickr